Politics on the Mind of Minnesota Producers

by 5m Editor
16 February 2009, at 9:53am

MINNESOTA, US - The state's pig industry has become big business and plays an increasing role in state politics. A director of Minnesota Pork Producers Association highlights the issues of funding, exports and the new recommendation for the cooking temperature for pork.

Because the Minnesota pork industry has become such a huge business, the business issues of farming ranked as key concerns of the Minnesota Pork Producers Association (MPPA) as it relates to the 2009 legislative session, reports The Land.

In plain language, that means the legislature should not rely on new fees, new licensing agreement or new taxes as the way to solve the $4.8 billion debt of the state of Minnesota, said Dave Preisler, MPPA executive director.

He also cautioned about rumblings of even more regulations being imposed on agriculture, particularly the livestock sector. "If there ever was a time to not regulate business more, this is that time," Mr Preisler said, noting that more jobs, more business growth is good for the pork industry, good for consumers and definitely good for the state.

Even so, he thinks the Pork Board will be faced with some tough choices on what programmes to cut, what issues to temporarily at least put on the sidelines. Pork checkoff funds can only be used for research, promotion and education so there should be no questioning of "other usage" of checkoff funds, especially on the regulatory side.

He did mention a newly approved cooking temperature for pork to be unveiled by US Department of Agriculture in February. The approval drops the recommended 160°F cooking temperature for pork down to 140°F, which apparently results in an eating experience of a much tastier pork. "Once approved and public, we'll be doing major education campaigns on this new approach to better, tastier and more satisfying pork," Mr Preisler said.

New rendering regulations destined to significantly impact the handling of older (36 months of age) deceased cattle likely will have little or no impact on swine since a number of pork producers have gone to composting of their dead animals. "So we're actually seeing a movement away from rendering within the pork industry," Mr Preisler said.

He indicated final rulings on Country of Origin Labelling (COOL) have now been issued so producers finally know what they are dealing with. Already the programme has caused tremendous drop-offs in the number of market-ready hogs coming from Canada. Also feeder pig imports are off significantly, partly because of COOL but also partly because of economics of higher feed costs greatly reducing sow herd numbers.

Exports still are carrying the US hog industry. Mr Preisler indicated that in some months in 2008 exports were up to 25 per cent of the entire hog market. "The worldwide economic funk we're in is causing exports to tail off slightly. Also our dollar has strengthened somewhat so that has lessened export markets. However, when it all balances out, there still is not a better place to grow pork than right here in southern Minnesota, eastern South Dakota and northern Iowa."

Mr Preisler emphasized that pork is the real buy in the meat market today, especially when it comes to value for protein. He also thinks the new cooking temperature issued for pork could result in a significant new surge.

For the record, Minnesota currently has 4,700 hog producers with the United States having a current total of 67,800, concludes the article in The Land.